Archives for category: Bush, Jeb

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, posts frequently about education in his state.


Last week, National Public Radio’s Alexandra Starr first reported on Florida’s mandatory retention of 3rd graders who don’t pass a reading proficiency test. Even though it is stigmatizing for children to be retained, and “multiple studies have found that flunking a grade makes it much more likely students will fail to graduate from high school,” the high stakes testing law has spread to about 40 percent of states.

States Are Ratcheting Up Reading Expectations For 3rd-Graders

NPR’s Starr draws on experts like Pedro Noguera, Nell Duke, and Diane Horm, while explaining how short-term benefits of 3rd grade retention “dissipate over time.” She also cites Marty West, a Big Data researcher who sidesteps the anxiety imposed on children and pressure on teachers to increase pass rates through ill-conceived instructional practices, and says that Florida’s well-funded mandatory retention law doesn’t hurt students’ graduation rates. Neither does West address states like Oklahoma, with chronic underfunding of education.And that leads to the first slippery slope created by Florida’s willingness to scale up punishments for young children and their teachers in order to improve student performance. At least it invests more than $130 million per year on its reading sufficiency act. When Oklahoma legislators, who were often persuaded by Jeb Bush’s public relations campaign, passed its reading act, they intended to invest $150 per struggling reader, but they only came up with $6 million, which was enough for only about $75 per student. It took six years to find money for about $153 per student.

For First Time, ‘Read or Fail’ Law Is Fully Funded. Will It Reduce Retentions?

In NPR’s second report focusing on Tulsa Ok., Starr shows the benefits of well-funded, holistic pre-kindergarten instruction. Oklahoma and edu-philanthropists fund such classes for 4-year-olds; nearly 3/4ths of Oklahoma students enroll in pre-k. And, next door to a comprehensive pre-k partnership, the majority-Hispanic Rosa Parks Elementary School illustrates the promise of partnerships for improving public schools. It is a part of the Tulsa Union community school system which so impressed David Kirp that his New York times article that featured Rosa Parks was entitled “Who Needs Charters When You Have Schools Like These?”  Oklahoma Among States Setting Higher Reading Expectations For 3rd-Graders Rosa Parks elementary teacher explained the dilemma schools face regarding kids who aren’t on track to pass the high stakes 3rd grade test, “Very early on, we have to put them on a plan if we think that they’re going to be held back in third grade for a test.” Unfortunately Starr didn’t have time to dig into those plans the way that Oklahoma Watch’s Jennifer Palmer has done. It leads to the second slippery slope created by high stakes testing for 3rd graders.

Palmer cites a librarian who explained, “‘RSA allows two years of retention, and two years in third grade would be worse,’ she said. ‘They would be completely destroyed.’” And that raises the question about the risks educators can/must take in order to not completely destroy their students.

The Oklahoma Watch’s study of federal data showed that 2,533 3rd graders were retained in 2015-16. Worse, she found that “repeating a grade is actually more common in kindergarten and first grade,” and “the high-stakes third-grade test appears to drive many of the early retentions.”  Oklahoma retained 3,977 kindergarteners, and a total of 10,345 students in the kindergarten through 2ndgrades.

These retentions were not evenly spread across the state. Next door to Tulsa Union, the Tulsa Public Schools, for instance, has about 2-1/3rds as many students as Union. The TPS retained 823 students through kindergarten and second grade, or more than 4-1/3rds as many. We can only hope that the edu-philanthropists who fund worthy early education programs, as well as their opposite – the corporate reform policies of Deborah Gist’s TPS – will realize how and why those two approaches are the antithesis of each other..

Palmer also touched on the third slippery slope when she explained the benchmark assessments that are used in predicting failure on the end-of-year tests. She writes, “Schools also rely on computerized benchmarking programs to glean more information on students’ skillsets and how they compare to other students their age.” But, to say the least, they are “not an exact science.” This leads to crucial, potentially life-changing and risky decisions being made by parents and teachers using data on a computer screen that they acknowledge they don’t understand.

Lastly, the dehumanizing slide down into systems where the punitive is seen as normal, even for our youngest students, might or might not have been predictable. Twenty years ago, the reward and punishment of kindergarteners would have seemed despicable. Market-driven reform may have begun as a way to force teachers to comply. Then it was dumped on teenagers. Now, when such stressful incentives and disincentives are imposed on 5-year-olds, it doesn’t seem surprising to read Big Data studies that claim that those who fail tests in the states with the most funding for competition-driven reform may not be damaged as much as previously thought …     


Governor Gina Raimondo is a bona fide neoliberal  who is part of the DFER clique, having been a hedge fund manager herself.

She recently selected Angelina Infante-Green as State Commissioner of Education. Infante-Green is a member of Jeb Bush’s cohort of Future Chiefs for Change. Now that she is a State Commissioner, she will qualify to join the big boys and girls as a full-fledged member of Jeb’s Club.

Chiefs for Change support privatization and high-stakes testing. It is Jeb’s vehicle to spread Florida’s failed model, whose ultimate goal is the elimination of public schools, unions, and professional teachers.


Jeb Bush created an organization called Chiefs for Change, whose original membership consisted of state superintendents who shared Jeb’s ideas: high-stakes testing, evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, school grades of A-F, and school choice (charters and vouchers).

Chiefs for Change has now become a clearinghouse for district superintendents.

You can be sure that anyone recommended by Chiefs for Change is dedicated to disrupting and privatizing your district.

Here are some of the district superintendents that Chiefs for Change points to with pride.

Lewis Ferebee, the new Superintendent of the schools of the District of Columbia.

Susana Cordova, the new Superintendent of the Denver schools.

Jesus Jara, Superintendent of the Clark County (Nevada) Schools. Nevada’s State Commissioner Steve Canovera is a member of Chiefs for Change.

Donald Fennoy, Superintendent of Palm Beach County, Florida.

Deborah Gist, Superintendent of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Schools, along with Andrea Castenada, the district’s “chief innovation officer.”

There are more.

This is the Jeb Bush pipeline, the leaders committed to his vision of disruption and privatization. Of course, you won’t find those two words on Jeb’s website, but those are the results of his convictions, and the proof of those convictions can be found in Florida, the state whose education policy he has controlled for 20 years.

Valerie Jablow, parent activist and blogger in D.C., wrote a scathing indictment of the leadership of the District of Columbia Public Schools.

She is sure that the districts leaders are actively undermining public schools–a policy of benign neglect– and promoting charter expansion.

A few weeks ago, the D.C. Public Charter School Board [sic] approved five new charter schools, despite the large number of empty seats in both public and private charter schools.  Only one of the new charters will locate in Anacostia, the city’s highest poverty district.

Many of the public schools enrolling students with high needs are suffering devastating budget cuts. At the same time, the Deputy Mayor for Education Paul Kihn testified that the city was “over investing” in these same schools. She notes that the Deputy Mayor sends his own child to an expensive private school where it is just fine to “overinvest” in education.

Chancellor Lewis Ferebee was hired away from Indianapolis, where he was actively collaborating with those who supported the privatization of public education. Now he oversees the harsh budget cuts inflicted on D.C.’s public schools, while declaring that more seats are needed for charter schools. Conditions are so bad in many of the district’s public schools that students are literally being pushed out of public schools and forced to seek “choices” other than their neighborhood public schools.

Chancellor Ferebee is a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change, which actively promotes vouchers, charter schools, and high-stakes testing.

And here is a voice in the D.C. wilderness, a teacher and Vice Chair of the Ward 7 Education Council, calling for a moratorium on charters in D.C., because they open and close at will and have no allegiance to their community, nor do they fill any need. Venola M. Rolle wrote in a letter to the Washington Post:

Stories regarding sudden closures and substandard performance justify a moratorium on establishing charter schools in this city. I do not know what information could be more damning. It’s time to have an open discussion about how to cease the proliferation of charter schools in the city and, instead, devise approaches to strengthening the schools we already have and that are the anchors of our communities.

With the current leadership of D.C., its mayor, its deputy mayor for education, and its chancellor, that discussion is not likely to happen.


Peter Greene read an unusually annoying article in the Detroit News that showed just out of touch the authors are.

Michigan is a state that went overboard for school choice, thanks to former Governor John Engler and the billionaire DeVos family.

Michigan has dropped down to the bottom of NAEP, as scores have collapsed for every group.

Jeb Bush arrives to tell Michigan what they need to do is double down on their failed strategies. More choice. More testing. More accountability. More threats. More punishments.

Bush claimed that these strategies worked in Florida but they didn’t.As Greene notes, fourth grade score went up only because the state holds back third graders who don’t pass the third grade reading test. By eighth grade, students in Florida are at the national average.

Who aspires to be average?

Things are so bad in Michigan that average looks good. It is not.

Florida has a large teacher shortage, about 10,000 at last count. Under the tutelage of Jeb Bush, the Florida Legislature has made testing and privatization the centerpiece of state education policy, while treating public schools and their teachers as enemies for almost 20 years. Florida holds public schools to strict accountability, based on test scores, but imposes no accountability for the religious schools that get vouchers, and showers state money on charters. The Legislature seems to be intent on replacing public schools with charters (half of which operate for-profit) and vouchers and replacing teachers with computers.

This teacher from Polk County has had enough. 

Shanna L. Fox writes:

Stand Up and Fight – An Open Letter of Resignation
There is no business model that can fix education. Students are not products and services that can be quantified. They are living, breathing human beings and their complexity cannot be reduced to cells on a spreadsheet.
Each child comes with their own set of needs, strengths, and abilities. Teachers must be provided the freedom to address those in the way that they professionally know is best based on their training and education.
My expertise is in a Language Arts classroom, so this is what I see most clearly. Students can analyze the hell out of a text. But testing has chipped away at the time teachers have to help their students write to inspire, write to express, write to create, write to change the world. Because what matters, in today’s education system, is one single way of writing. The thing is, our students are whole people, and this only provides them a chance to show a tiny sliver of who they are.
It’s not only Language Arts, though. This toxic testing nightmare has stripped students of the opportunity to foster their creativity in every single subject area. Children are being denied the right to express themselves in their own unique ways. They yearn for the chance to be artistic and imaginative, to be inspired and inspire others, and to innovate and build and solve. They are capable of more than simply working toward a test score. They deserve more.
And it is time for me to stand up and fight for them and the profession I love.
After twenty years, the decision to resign did not come easily. In fact, it has taken me two months to process and collect my thoughts and to muster up the courage to share them here.
Leaving my stable, secure career as a classroom teacher was risky. I was willing to risk everything because giving it all up feels like freedom in comparison to the restriction in which I was living.
My decision to walk away was not impulsive. It was years in the making. I almost walked away last year. I almost walked away two years ago. When I finally gained the courage, it wasn’t the administration, the school, or the students. And it certainly wasn’t my wonderful colleagues. None of those things drove me away. Instead, I was battle weary from years of working in a broken system. And honestly, I could not face another testing season.
I thought this transition would be more difficult than it has been. I thought I would be devastated and depressed. But I haven’t been. Now, I realize why. The truth is, I have been grieving the loss of my profession for years. I was grieving the time I used to have to foster meaningful relationships with my students. I was grieving a time when I was trusted to teach well, based on my training and knowledge. I was grieving a time when student creativity was valued over a test score.
But that simply isn’t the reality anymore. 
Over the past six years, I changed grade levels, campuses, and roles. I even returned to the school that felt like “home” with the people who I consider family. I searched tirelessly for the thing that would reignite my passion for teaching and renew my sense of hope for the future of the public school system. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t find it. 
And I’m not alone. This has been called a silent strike – teachers exiting the profession prematurely or retiring early. But I, for one, will not leave silently. Although I can no longer work within this broken system, I will stand and fight from where I am now. I will work to fix it.
I am not writing to encourage others to leave teaching. This was a personal, individual decision that I made to preserve my physical, mental, and emotional health. But if you do decide to walk away, as I did, please do not be silent. If you’ve already exited or retired early, for your very own unique reasons, please speak up. This shouldn’t be a silent strike. It should be the loudest protest of all time because speaking up for public education is speaking up for our children and, quite frankly, for the foundation of our democracy.
To my colleagues who continue to work for change within their classroom walls, I am standing by your side. I support you. I know you are doing what is best for your students, even with mounting pressures, longer task lists than ever before, and mandates upon mandates. I applaud your strength and dedication. I can’t wait to meet Bella’s amazing teachers during her upcoming journey as a public school student. I hope they are just like you.
To my former students, you are the reason I stayed for twenty years. As a teacher, I learned so much from you. And now, I marvel at your continued success, your ability to achieve your dreams, and your capacity to tackle the obstacles of life. I was proud of you then, and I am proud of you now – every single day. 
To the Polk Education Association, I thank you for your tireless efforts to quell the overwhelming tide of negativity. I know that you fight tooth and nail for every single right, benefit, and dollar that PCPS employees get. I am proud to have been a member of the union. I may not be working from the inside anymore. But I will be here, battling right alongside you. After all, you’re the ones who taught me how.
I’ll be honest. When I was a Polk County Public Schools employee, I didn’t take a stand each time there was an opportunity to do so. But I know that I did not take this career risk to sit on the sidelines and watch.
I’m standing now.
I am standing for our students.
I am standing for our teachers. 
I am standing for public education.
In solidarity,
Shanna R. Fox


Audrey Amrein-Beardsley is an education scholar who specializes in smoking out quack reforms, like the “value-added” accountability measures used to judge teacher quality.

In this post, She investigates whether the 13 states that grade states with a single letter grade of A-F achieve higher scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress after implementing this strategy. 

Jeb Bush initiated the idea of giving schools a single letter grade.

I have long believed that it was a singularly stupid idea. If your child came home from school with a report card that contained only one letter grade, you as a parent would be outraged. No individual child is an A or B or C or D or F. She may be great in math but weak in science, average in reading but excellent in art or history.

If it’s wrong to give a single letter grade to one child, it is ludicrous to give a single letter grade to an institution that has hundreds of students, staff, programs, etc.

Amrein-Beardsley concluded:

In reality, how these states performed post-implementation is not much different from random, or a flip of the coin. As such, these results should speak directly to other states already, or considering, investing human and financial resources in such state-level, test-based accountability policies.

In short, this is a costly and useless school reform policy that benefits no one.

Sue M. Legg is a scholar at the University of Florida, a leader in Florida’s League of Women Voters, and a new board member of the Network for Public Education. She has written an incisive and devastating critique of Jeb Bush’s education program in Florida, which began twenty years ago. Bush called it his A+ Plan, but by her careful analysis, it rates an F. Advocates of school choice tout Florida’s fourth-grade scores on NAEP, which are artificially inflated by holding back third graders who dontpass the state test. By eighth grade, Florida’s students rank no better than the national average. Note to “Reformers”: a state that ranks “average” is NOT a national model.

Twenty Years Later, Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan Fails Florida’s Students. 

Sue Legg explodes the myth of the Florida miracle in her well documented report:  Twenty Years Later: Jeb Bush’s A+ Plan Fails Florida’s Students. She has compiled the research over twenty years showing the negative impact of privatization in Florida.  The highly touted achievement gains of retained third graders are lost by eighth grade.  Top ranked fourth grade NAEP scores fall to the national average by eighth grade. One half of twelfth graders read below grade level.  The graduation rate is above only 14 states.

The A+ Plan was a great slogan, but its defects resulted in a twenty-year cycle of trial and error to fix the problems.   School grades are unreliable.  A school receiving a ‘B’ grade one year has about a thirty percent chance of retaining the grade the following year. Invalid grades occur so frequently that State Impact reports that Florida made sixteen changes to the school grade formula since 2010.  It was thrown out but the new version is no more stable.  What it means to be a failing school, moreover, is consistently redefined to make more opportunity for charter school takeovers.  

Florida touts improving academic achievement in the private sector that is not supported by research.  The CREDO Study reams Florida’s for-profit charter industry.  According to a Brookings Institution study, low quality private schools are on the rise, and the LeRoy Collins Institute’s 2017 study, Tough Choices, explains that there are twice as many severely segregated Florida schools (90% non-white students) than there were in 1994-5.  The legislature ignores the problem in part because key legislators have personal interest in charter and private schools.  “Florida suits him” said Roger Stone, recently indicted in the Mueller investigation.  The New York Times article: Stone Cold Loser: quoted Stone’s admiration for Florida when he said “…it was a sunny place for shady people”.  Miami Herald series “Cashing in on Kids” reported a list of questionable land deals and conflicts of interest by for-profit charter school management. The federal government began an investigation in 2014.  Last year a  charter management firm faced criminal charges, and Florida charters have the nation’s highest closure rate.

WalletHub reports that Florida is 47th of 50 states in working conditions for teachers.  As a result, the Florida Education Association projects 10,000 vacancies next fall. Teacher shortages are not only related to money, they are due to a deliberate attack on the profession in order to break teacher unions and impose a political ideology.  As Steve Denning in a Forbes magazine article explains: “The system” grinds forward, at ever increasing cost and declining efficiency, dispiriting students, teachers and schools alike”. The thinking, he says, is embedded in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Race to the Top policies.   The A+ Plan is an extension of these policies that includes increased testing and rewards and punishments related to results.

Florida’s teachers are not allowed to strike.  Parents may have to.  The legislature recently approved small raises for teachers but expanded the unconstitutional voucher program.  The governor is not concerned; he appointed three new judges to the Florida Supreme Court.  In the May 3rd 2019 Senate session, Senator Tom Lee chastised his fellow Republicans.  He has supported charter schools for years, but said ‘the industry has not been honest with us...first they wanted PECO facility funds, then local millage; now they want a portion of local discretionary referendum funds.  He called the current supporters ‘ideologues who have drunk the kool-aid‘.

The full report is published on the NPE-Action website.


The Gainesville Sun published an editorial denouncing the newRepublican voucher program, which diverts money from public schools to unaccountable private and religious schools.

“Last week, Florida lawmakers voted to raid taxpayer money meant for public education to pay for middle-income families to send their children to private schools.

“They passed the measure despite these largely religious schools lacking the standards and other requirements that the state has piled on public schools. They passed the legislation despite the Florida Supreme Court rejecting a similar measure as unconstitutional in 2006.

“They even included $250,000 in the state budget for an expected legal fight but are surely expecting a positive outcome this time around before a state Supreme Court that had three new conservative members appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“After all, DeSantis has declared that “if the taxpayer is paying for education, it’s public education.″ He appears unconcerned with the consequences of continuing to divert money meant for traditional public schools to private and charter schools, while saddling traditional public schools with mandates that make it harder for educators to do their jobs and students to succeed.

“The newly passed legislation creates 18,000 vouchers at an initial cost of around $130 million, with the numbers rising in subsequent years. Families making up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $77,250 a year for a family of four, would be eligible for the new vouchers.

“Unlike previous private school “scholarships” provided to lower-income families, the funding for these vouchers would come directly out of the pot of money intended for public schools. Yet the Republican-controlled Legislature rejected amendments proposed by Democrats to increase accountability for these schools to anywhere near the level of their public counterparts…

“Florida has repeatedly ranked near the bottom of the country in teacher pay and per-pupil funding, and the voucher plan in the long term will only make things worse.

“The vouchers will accelerate a two decade-long trend of the state shifting money to private and charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools, creating parallel education systems held to different standards. The trend started under Gov. Jeb Bush, who was in the House chambers last week to celebrate the bill’s passage.”


Spurred on by Governor Ron DeSantis, Jeb Bush, and Betsy DeVos, the Florida Senate endorsed a fifth private voucher program. 

“The bill would create a new Family Empowerment Scholarship — the state’s fifth voucher program — that could help up to 18,000 students pay private school tuition with state-backed scholarships. The program would target youngsters from low-income families but could be open to more middle class ones, too, with an income limit of nearly $80,000 for a family of four….

“Every parent knows what’s best for their individual child, and at no point should we turn over that responsibility to the government,” said Sen. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah, one of the bill’s sponsors.”

The new program would be funded with money taken from the state education budget, up to $130 million. Other vouchers programs are “tax credits” given to corporations or individuals. Because this money comes right out of the state budget, it might be subject to legal challenge since it directly violates the state constitution’s prohibition on public money for religious schools.

Republicans are betting that the state courts will ignore the state constitution and the 2012 referendum that went against Jeb Bush’s effort to change that provision of the state constitution.

More than 80% of students using vouchers attend religious schools. Voucher schools “do not have to give students state tests nor meet state standards when it comes to academics, teacher credentials or facilities.”

Florida Republicans continue their  assault on public schools.

Florida is no model for the nation.

On the NAEP, Florida ranks at the national average in 8th grade reading and math. It has large achievement gaps between black and white students. Ignore Florida’s fourth grade scores; they are tainted by the state policy of retaining third grade students who don’t pass the state reading test.

I don’t know whether voucher students are included in NAEP’s sample. The State makes sure they are not included on state tests.